Dairy Kefir In The Winter Kitchen {plus NT recipe}

During the summer I keep a jar of dairy kefir out on the counter. I use it freely and top it off daily – with summers abundent milk supply. Now that winter is here I find our dairy kefir usage has plummeted. It’s just too cold to mix up a frosty smoothie and, not in the least, our milk supply has dried up. Yet, kefir grains need to be fed regularly. So how does dairy kefir fit into my winter kitchen?

For starters I keep my jar of diary kefir in the fridge. This slows the fermenting process down considerably. That means there’s less to use daily and I can feed my grains less frequently. The kefir still ferments so when I do want to use some I can. Then I replace however much I just used up with fresh milk. If I use over half the jar I might leave the jar out to ferment on the counter, otherwise it might not be ready for a few days at least.

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During the summer kefir generally goes into smoothies and veggie dips and dressings. During the winter I use kefir mainly as a replacement for yogurt or buttermilk in recipes, like pancakes or meatloaf for example. These are cooked so they won’t contain the benefits of live kefir; although any grains in the recipe will benefit from soaking in the acidic kefir. You can still reap the benefits of kefir’s live cultures if you make dressing, dip or consume it unheated in some other way.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Nourishing Traditions, it’s kind of a three recipes in one recipe. It’s a light mild dressing. NT calls for piima cream or creme fraiche but I used kefir instead.

Creamy Dressing

First make the basic dressing (pg129 NT) This makes about 3/4 cup.

Combine the mustard and vinegar then add in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the while till emulsified.

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 Tlb plus 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar ( NT calls for wine vinegar)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tlb flax oil, if you have it.

Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs i.e. parsley, oregano, tarragon, thyme, basil etc. This is now the herb dressing (also pg 129 of NT).

Finally blend in 1/4 cup kefir.

 Now you have 1 cup creamy dressing (pg 131 of NT).

Adjust seasoning to taste. I like to let it sit for a while to let the herbs have a chance to release their flavor.

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Some other recipes using kefir:

Susan’s Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes   (or use your favorite pancake recipe replacing the buttermilk or milk with kefir)

Kefir Pizza Crust

Ranch Dip (from cultures for health- this one is a favorite)

Also, try straining the kefir for a thick & smooth kefir cheese. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can roll the seasoned cheese into small (about golf ball size) balls. Place balls in a jar and cover with olive oil.

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Nourishing Traditions: Latin American Sauerkraut {with pineapple vinegar}

DSCN9544 I’ve been on the look out for recipes using pineapple vinegar. I noticed one in Nourishing Traditions for Latin American Sauerkraut which isn’t necessarily a recipe I’d normally make.  I happened to have a small head of cabbage left from making stuffed cabbage- which works best with the large outer leaves. So I figured why not?

DSCN9542Now, as you can see below, the original recipe calls for onions. I left them out because the last few times I added raw onions to, for example, pickled beets I found the raw flavor way too strong. Also, there are two versions: one with salt (and optional whey) and one with pineapple vinegar. Since all of the shredded cabbage and carrots didn’t fit in one jar I made both. The fuller jar contains the pineapple vinegar version, while the lesser jar is just salt.

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DSCN9560The salt only version packed down significantly more. And already appears softer. Following the instructions I left both out for three days before transferring to the fridge.

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Fermenting

Now that we’re getting settled I figured it was time to get the ferments going again. I had brought a few things along that were “in progress” such as apple cider vinegar, preserved lemons, preserved limes (which are all rather low maintenance), and some much neglected dairy kefir. But it was time to attend to them and venture once more into fermenting veggies.

I had tried making fermented carrots before from Nourishing Traditions but they where so salty I couldn’t eat them. I even made another batch halving the salt but they were still too salty and more of a chore than a joy to get through. So I was feeling a little leery about wasting the time and effort and veggies. Then I read (parts of) The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I also have his book Wild Fermentation but I much prefer The Art of Fermentation; it really made me want to get in the kitchen and get a jar going. And the next thing I knew there I was with a jar full of chopped veggies. And the best part is that even though I wasn’t able to have a garden this year every single vegetable was given to me by a friend who grew it in their garden. How sweet is that?!

Here’s what went in: carrots, radishes,yellow summer squash,garlic (some fresh picked, some   that was starting to sprout), chard stems, a small green tomato, basil. How heavenly it smells, how delicious it tastes!

I immediately started another jar this time zucchini spears with garlic.

Again, success! As my oldest Noah said “they’re just so good. I want to eat them all up.(followed by a lip-smacking slurp I can’t replicate)”. So I did it. I started a batched of shredded carrots.

And for a little compare and contrast I started a jar or pickled beets with onion in raw apple cider vinegar.

We haven’t tested these last two yet but the beets look lovely and the carrots, with a little help of the brine from the first batch of mixed veggies, are smelling wonderful. Next up? A jar full of basil! Seriously, it tastes like licorice once it’s fermented. Divine!

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Cooking from Nourishing Traditions :: Carrot Soup

With a bout of the sniffles going around I knew it was only a matter of time before soup was requested- and so it was. Therefore I give you, by special request: Carrot Soup.

Carrot Soup (found on page 221 of Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions) is a very simple  curry soup comprised of mainly carrots and onions. Because of this the broth plays a very important supporting role in rounding out the flavor so I really recommend using homemade broth.

The Recipe (serves 6)

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped

4 TLB butter

2 tsp curry powder

1 1/2 Qt chicken stock

1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon rind

1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

sea salt and pepper (optional use of fish sauce)

piima cream

Saute the veggies slowly in the butter until very tender (about 45 min). Stir in curry powder. Add stock then bring to a boil and skim. Add lemon rind and ginger. Simmer about 15 min, covered. Puree. Check seasoning and serve topped with a dollop of cultured cream.

Simple. But it really does take about 45 mins ,over rather low heat, for the carrots and onions to become sufficiently soft without browning the butter.

So how was it?

Once again I have to give this recipe from Nourishing Traditions a good review. For a bit of perspective I’ll say 4 out 5 stars- and for a soup that’s basically carrots and onions that’s good! So why not 5 stars? Well I think it could use a bit more rounding out- maybe some butternut squash in addition to the carrots and onions?

The boys loved it- but they like both curried soups and carrot soup and soup in general- and that’s pretty much a requirement to enjoy this recipe. I will make this again although I will make a few adjustments, starting with adding some butternut squash. We’ll see where we go from there.

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Cooking from Nourishing Traditions :: Potato and Celery Root Puree

I was not expecting Potato and Celery Root Puree to be the next recipe I tried from Nourishing Traditions. However a few weeks back, feeling rather adventurous, I brought a celery root. Now I had to do something with it. But what?

Potato and Celery Root Puree (page 401) is basically glorified mashed potatoes. Sally Fallon’s recipe serves 8-10 and calls for 3 celery roots so I divided her recipe into thirds (enough for about 3 people) but otherwise followed the recipe as instructed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First I put several potatoes in the oven to bake. Then I peeled and cut up the celery root, placing the pieces in a pot, covered them with water and brought them to a boil. It takes about 30+ minutes to cook them until tender.

Then drain.

Place about an 1/8 cup of butter in the bottom of a large bowl (I just used the pot I cooked the celery root in). When the potatoes are done scoop the flesh out of two and place on top of the butter. Add the cooked celery root and 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and mashed. Mash them together adding 1/8-1/4 cup piima cream (sour cream) until it’s the desired consistency. I left it on the chunky side but rather thick. Season with salt and pepper and maybe a really small pinch of nutmeg. Serve, or to keep warm- transfer to a buttered ovenproof dish and keep it in a warmed oven.

So how’d it come out?

Good! Celery root tastes celery but with the texture of a root vegetable. I thought it was a pleasant change from plain old mashed potatoes – kind of a special occasion/holiday side dish. For some reason prime rib came to mind.

I was the only one who tried it so I can’t tell out what the kids or husband thought – they opted for the extra baked potatoes. I will make this again and I will also be trying celery root prepared other ways-  roasted and in a raw salad are two ways that come to mind. Overall I’d say it’s a success.

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Cooking from Nourishing Traditions :: Chicken with Cream Sauce

As you might know, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is more than just a cookbook. All too often I open up my copy of NT with the intent of perusing the recipes; instead I find myself reading the articles. I’ve learned a lot but I’ve found that I haven’t made that many of the recipes from Nourishing Traditions. So, starting with this post, I will (try to) regularly make a recipe from NT and post my results. Today’s  post will be from the poultry section (page 281): Chicken with Cream Sauce, a variation on Basic Baked Chicken.

Now the original recipe calls for one chicken cut in pieces, brushed with

  • 2 Tlb Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tlb melted butter (or oil)              – mix these three together
  • 1 Tlb dried tarragon

and baked. However, in an effort to speed things along and lessen the number of pans to wash I opted to use boneless chicken breasts, sliced then brushed and sauteed. This time around I also added in some chopped mushrooms to saute. Once the chicken is cooked either put it aside while making the sauce or cook the chicken a bit less and finish cooking it while the sauce reduces.

The sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup piima cream or creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 Tlb gelatin (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Mix the above together, stirring to incorporate any drippings. Cook till the sauce has thickened. If you put the chicken aside add it back in and make sure it’s hot then serve. I think it goes well with egg noodles or over rice.

I’ve made this 2 or 3 times now. This last time I didn’t have any dry white wine on hand so I used the juice from the preserved lemons to taste and left out the additional salt.

I like this recipe more than I thought I would. It’s a delicate lightly creamy sauce, a touch sweet from the tarragon yet balanced just enough by the mustard. I love the sauce over rice. So creamy -almost risotto-y. I liked the addition of mushrooms as well. My 4 and 2 year olds like it but the husband not so much- he’s not really a light slightly sweet creamy sauce kind of guy.

I really recommend going stove top on this recipe. NT calls for a 2 hour baking time for the chicken before making the sauce, using sliced boneless breasts (and my pressure cooker to make the rice in 10 mins) this meal is an easy 30 min meal.

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